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AI is more data-hungry than ever, and DefinedCrowd raises $50M B round to feed it

As AI has grown from niche to mission-critical technology, the companies that enable it have multiplied and in many cases prospered. A good example of that success is DefinedCrowd, which has gone from the Disrupt stage to globe-spanning AI toolkit to the Fortune 500 in just a couple of years. The company just raised a new $50.5 million B round to further fuel its expansion.

DefinedCrowd doesn’t make AI, but rather supplies data used to create it, specializing in natural language processing. After all, someone has to vet the 500 different ways you could ask for the weather — otherwise it would be much more difficult for machine learning systems to tell what users mean. The same goes for computer vision, sentiment recognition and other domains for which the company creates and sorts data. DefinedCrowd has a paid community hundreds of thousands strong doing this highly necessary but voluminous work.

As AI has worked its way into everything from creating and editing media to enterprise software, there’s been no shortage of companies in search of training data.

“The demand for data has consistently been growing over the last couple years — companies are more and more aware of the impact that data has on their systems, and have been looking for more languages and domains that weren’t considered five years ago,” co-founder and CEO Daniela Braga told TechCrunch.

She emphasized inclusivity, the potential for bias and more multilingual deployments as drivers of that demand. New markets and applications are opening up constantly and entrants need high-quality data to develop consumer-ready products.

“This puts us in a very good position, as our data is agnostic and we can work pretty much across all verticals,” Braga said.

As evidence this is not simply wishful thinking, the company reported a tremendous 656% increase in revenue year-over-year. They’ve also nearly tripled the size of their workforce in that time to more than 250 people.

It’s toward hiring that Braga expects a great deal of the $50 million round to go: got to have the developers to make the products to follow the road map. That means doubling the employee count — again.

I asked whether the present pandemic has had a major effect on DefinedCrowd’s operations or business. Braga noted that she hasn’t “noticed a significant downturn in the industry,” presumably because product development has continued in anticipation of consumer and enterprise needs returning to normal.

“We decided to make our business fully remote before lockdown measures were implemented,” she explained. “Transferring every employee to remote working in a short space of time was challenging; however, considering we were already a global company with four offices in three different countries, the adaptation phase was fairly smooth, and we were able to maintain full speed during the process.”

Semapa Next and Hermes GPE were added this round to the increasingly long list of investors, which now includes Evolution Equity Partners, Kibo Ventures, Portugal Ventures, Bynd Venture Capital, EDP Ventures, IronFire Ventures, Amazon Alexa Fund, Sony Innovation Fund and Mastercard.

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